The Mahout Association is based in Hongsa, Sayaboury Province with 19 elephant owners or mahouts currently members. The Association’s main objective is to reconvert logging elephants into more sustainable forms of income-generation such as forest trekking. Reconversion has flow-on benefits for other fields such as elephant care, enhanced elephant reproduction, reduced deforestation, REDD and rural poverty reduction.
The Mahout Association was granted formal civil society status at the Hongsa district level in May. Provincial level approval is currently in process. Civil societies are a new concept in Laos, only beginning in 2010. A year-long agreement, the French Embassy will assist the Mahout Association to strengthen its capacity to become a fully independent civil society. This will be achieved via skills sharing, product advertising, tourism awareness, accounting and book keeping. Elephant owners will rotate their elephants on a time-sharing basis, allowing for a fair distribution of tourism funds for all involved.
ElefantAsia is actively involved in initiating the inaugural Mahout Association for the benefit of elephant owners and remote Sayaboury villagers. The Mahout Association provides a non-government arena for elephant owners and workers to express their concerns regarding unsustainable logging quotas, uncertain employment futures and issues such as poaching and human-elephant conflict. ElefantAsia wishes to assist in the creation of further Mahout Associations in other cities of the Sayaboury Province such as Paklay and Sayaboury municipality.
If anyone would like to donate to the inception of further Mahout Associations, please donate to ElefantAsia. Your assistance will help locals in rural areas begin a new phase in business, independence and elephant conservation. Please go to ElefantAsia’s donate page or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.